An austere ancient authority, a smitten teenage lover, a prophet, an embezzler, a national icon, an
unapologetic heretic, a mercenary, and the only truly great poet to have ever lived: Dante has
been called many things in the seven hundred years since he began writing, and he continues to
attract the interest of a wildly diverse group of readers and commentators. In his medieval
masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, Dante irreversibly transformed literary language and perhaps
even the way in which our current consciousness perceives the universe. Our course will focus
on the first canticle of the Divine Comedy, both the most famous and most infamous: Inferno.
Our goal will be to bring Dante’s Hell to life, reconstructing the terrifying landscape and
interpreting the complex poetry of a text that continues to resonate with modern audiences as
intensely as it did with its medieval public.
Preparation & Expectations:
Students should feel comfortable reading and analyzing poetry independently and have a strong
writing style and composition skills. A knowledge of Italian is not required but students who
have experience in Italian are encouraged to engage with the original text. Attendance is
mandatory and energetic participation is strongly encouraged.
Students should be prepared to read approximately 2–3 cantos and their accompanying notes
each week, as well as studying 2–3 selections from further primary and critical sources. In
addition to preparing all required readings in advance of lecture and participating enthusiastically
in class, students will be asked to prepare a comment or question each week based on the
readings to facilitate debate during lectures. There will be three exams during the course and a
final project where creative responses are encouraged.
Participation and Reading Responses 30%
Final Assignment 30%
Alighieri, Dante. Inferno. Edited and translated by Robert Durling. Introduction and Notes by
Robert Durling and Ronald Martinez. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. [Paperback and ebook
All further texts and materials will be provided in digital format.
Taught in English.
Intended Italian Studies majors and minors may count this as a taught-in-Italian course
provided they complete all their written work in Italian.